What Makes a Good Sales Training Reinforcement Strategy?
A good sales training reinforcement strategy requires early planning. One of the biggest mistakes I see our clients sometimes make is waiting until after the training is over to think about the actual reinforcement plan. You need to be thinking about your plan well in advance. And ideally, you should split it up into three phases.
What do you want to do for short-term reinforcement? What do you want to do in the medium-term? What do you want to do in the long-term? Each of those three sales training reinforcement buckets should be a little bit different.
In the short-term, for example, you may want to focus on knowledge mastery by drilling participants in the concepts they learned in the main classroom training. We do this through our QuickCheck process that involves spaced repetition, testing, and competition for about eight weeks following the initial training delivery. Participants are e-mailed two questions per week. They answer the questions, and even if they get the question wrong, they will see the correct answer and try to answer the question right the next time. Results are captured in a database and reported back to sales managers for additional coaching. Many clients also elect to post results of the top ten performers on a leaderboard to fuel competition and accountability. All of this activity sends a message that the skills learned in the classroom are not going away.
In the medium-term, you might start doing assessments to see how salespeople are doing and gauge and flex what it is you are reinforcing. Assessments could take place as a result of sales managers inspecting a sales rep’s call plan or observing the rep in action. This activity identifies strengths and gaps and enables rich developmental sales coaching discussions to create additional awareness of gaps and suggestions to close gaps. You might be giving more on-the-job training to really make sure that the new behaviors are embedded into their daily work stream.
Then, in the long-term, you want to see the needle for a rep’s key performance indicators start to move in the right direction. If they know what they need to do, and if through inspection you see that they are doing it, then you would expect positive results to follow. If KPI’s aren’t moving in the right direction, then that’s a red flag requiring a closer look. You need to ask yourself if this is a trend you are seeing across the sales force; in isolated pockets, such as a territory or vertical; or something very unique to the rep in question. If you have issues in pockets or territories, it could be an indication that sales management is lagging in their role to reinforce the training. Leadership must hold management accountable, just as management must hold the rep accountable.
A big part of any sales training reinforcement program is coaching, and I think organizations have gotten the memo: coaching is important. They have seen that it has business impact. For years, those of us in the sales training space have been trying to get people to understand how important coaching is. Organizations get it. I think managers get it. But that doesn’t make it any easier for managers to actually do it.
They have a lot of things on their plate. If their organizations are not teaching them how to do it or pushing them to do it, it may fall down on the list. What we are trying to now have discussions with our clients about is that coaching is a learned skill. It requires just as much, if not more, attention in terms of a training plan as sales skills.
It is sometimes harder for sales managers to learn how to coach and to acquire coaching behaviors — true developmental coaching behaviors — than it is for a salesperson to pick up new sales skills. The best, or one of the best, ROIs on your training investments is to not only expect your managers to coach, but to teach them how to do it. Help them build the skills to have true developmental coaching discussions.